Spreading Cycology

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Spreading Cycology is a documentary film on a solo cycling expedition across small towns and villages in India, with a mission to explore on-ground realities of mental health in India by engaging communities in discussions and storytelling.

About the film:

“The World Health Organisation predicts that 20 percent of India’s population will suffer from some form of mental illness by the year 2020. For the 70 million mentally ill patients in India, there are less than 4,000 trained psychiatrists and most of these doctors are concentrated in the big cities and large towns. Currently 0.06 percent of the total health budget of India is being allocated towards mental health. With little or no psychiatric facilities in smaller towns and villages, communities in rural India are unable to achieve the most basic of human right of ‘Access to Health’.

“Just as an average Indian in a rural/small town lives on a budget of less than USD 1.50 per day, I have decided to live on this daily budget during my entire expedition of cycling across India. I am driven by the need to push my physical and mental boundaries by immersing myself in the life of those whose stories I want to bring to the forefront.

“Apart from the lack of access to mental health care, stigma around mental illness is a deeply rooted problem that plagues India across urban and rural India. Often times, stigma is a result of sheer lack of knowledge, myths and misconceptions around what mental illness really is. Spreading Cycology aims to tackle stigma by interviewing people from across the spectrum of modern medicine to alternative treatments and dispelling myths by showcasing powerful narratives of people with mental illness who are contributing members of the nation, despite the challenges they face.

“In March 2017, we completed our first shooting schedule of a 2,000-kilometre ride that lasted 22 days and has generated over 70 hours of footage and interviews. Our next and final schedule will cover around 2,500 kilometres and will commence on May 17th, 2017. By the end of our shoot, we would have covered over 40 small towns and villages across 10 states in the north and south of India and have over 200 hours of footage and detailed interviews about the reality of mental health in India.

“The film has been shot to industry standard specifications and we will be sending a 70-90 minute documentary to films festivals, post which we will also be cutting an educational 20-episode web series to go up online. The documentary will be ready for sales and distribution by November, 2017 and the web-series will be ready for sales and distribution by January, 2018.

“Apart from the film and web content that this project will generate, this will be an action-based project to a certain degree. I have picked up and will continue to pick up projects from various small towns and villages which I then intend to approach my networks in the cities to see if I can find partners to help with financially or through services. Due to the lack of accessibility, organisations in rural areas don’t have connections to technology-based services and find it hard to present their work to a wider audience. Here are three concrete projects from my first trip I have decided to assist with:

1) Guhagarh Handicap Association needs help with a crowdfunding plan and a vehicle to transport people with disabilities. I plan to reach out within my networks and try to convince a corporation to donate the vehicle. I also plan on helping them improve their online presence.

2) An old age home needs help with their website, and I have experience building websites. This is something I will personally be working on.

3) Through my social enterprise CraYon Impact, which my partner and I run, I am planning to partner with someone I met in Kochi to organise accessible events around disability and mental health.

“I will pick 3-5 projects after my second schedule which, again I will assist with.

“In addition to all of this, once the film is complete I plan to release a call-to-action on social media, which will include a range of requests, where the larger public may also choose to help or provide volunteer services to. For this we have also partnered with The Quint, one of India’s foremost online new sources.

“We see this project not just as a documentary feature film but also as a sustainable and replicable tool for change in a country still struggling with an understanding of mental illness and even with only the first shooting schedule having been completed, we have received a significant amount of media coverage from national newspapers and popular online news portals. I was even invited to give a TEDx Talk on Mental Health and my own experiences with a mental illness after beginning this project.”

Find out more about Rohan’s quest, and offer your support, here: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/55563-spreading-cycology

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